Playing the bitch
Well not quite, at least according to the Royal New Zealand Ballet. In the company’s latest production of the classic ballet, which opens its New Zealand tour in Wellington this week, while the handsome prince falls in love with the servant girl, there’s no slipper and the step sisters are far from unattractive.
Abigail Boyle plays one of the step sisters, roles traditionally danced by male dancers.
“We’re not referring to them as ugly sisters, rather wicked sisters,” Boyle says. “And we’re pretty wicked and raw on stage. We’re not at all ladylike and push others around a lot, so in that sense we are ugly.”
“Seeing a bitch on stage is pretty ugly,” agrees fellow step sister Bronte Kelly. Kelly plays the silly step sister, “not wicked,” she says, “just ditsy and silly and following what her sister does.”
What the step sisters don’t have to do is attempt to fit their feet into a small glass shoe.
“There’s no slipper in this version of Cinderella,” Boyle says. “A rose takes its place. The rose bush has significance throughout the whole story and at the ball the prince gives a rose to Cinderella.”
For both Kelly and Boyle playing the step sisters has been a new experience in their dancing careers.
“It’s the most fun role I’ve ever done,” Kelly says. “We do a lot of fighting so it’s like fighting with your siblings at home.”
Kelly, a Queenslander, has been with the New Zealand company for only a year, straight from the Australian Ballet School. She performed in the company’s Tutus on Tour and Stravinsky Selection seasons and in its production of Sleeping Beauty.
“I’ve been fortunate with the New Zealand Ballet ,” Kelly says. “There are so many unemployed talented dancers out there I was lucky to get into the company in the first place, and to get such exciting roles after such a short time.”
Boyle is a New Zealander, a rarity in the company’s current troupe of dancers. She’s a graduate of the International Ballet Academy in Christchurch and joined the RNZB in 2005. She’s received critical acclaim for her performances in Don Quixote, From Here to There and Tutus on Tour and most recently Sleeping Beauty.
“I enjoy dancing both contemporary and classical, though contemporary is easier on the body,” Boyle admits. “To be a ballet dancer today you need to be strong in both areas”
Boyle and Kelly say this production of Cinderella will have even more sparkle than the company’s popular 2007 production. Included in the costumes and set are more than 100,000 Swarovski crystals made especially for the RNZB by the Swarovski factory in Austria.
“It’s a very sparkling performance,” Boyle says.
Cinderella, Royal New Zealand Ballet, St James Theatre, August 2-11.